Parks Group: No Support for Charter Change

At a special meeting of Ann Arbor’s park advisory commission on Aug. 8, commissioners voted unanimously against recommending to the city council that it place a ballot question before citizens in November that would amend the city charter’s language about protections for city parkland.

The charter amendment would require that certain long-term leasing arrangements on city parkland for non-park and non-recreational use be subject to a voter referendum. In 2008, voters had already approved a charter amendment that subjects any sale of parkland to a popular vote. The resolution will be considered on Aug. 9 by the city council at a rare Thursday council meeting, due to the primary election that fell on Tuesday, the day following the council’s scheduled regular meeting. The council had postponed the proposed charter amendment item from its July 16, 2012 meeting.

The vote by the park advisory commission (PAC) came after extensive public commentary – some for and some against – and remarks delivered to PAC by councilmembers Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1). Five councilmembers were thus present at the PAC meeting – including the two city council ex officio non-voting members of PAC, Christopher Taylor (Ward 3) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5), as well as Sandi Smith (Ward 1), who sat in the audience but did not address PAC.

Concerns cited by PAC members in declining to recommend their support of the resolution to place the question on the ballot included the idea that the language of the proposed amendment introduced a “gray area,” and possible unintended consequences. They also had questions about who the arbiter would be for the meaning of “non-park” and “non-recreational.” Some commissioners also had concerns about the public process that had been used thus far to evaluate the proposed charter amendment.